There’s a lot of deleting in copyediting, not just of the “very”s and “rather”s and “quite”s and excrescent “that”s with which we all encase our prose like so much Bubble Wrap and packing peanuts, but of restatements of information — “as estab’d,” one politely jots in the margin.

Much repetition, though, comes under the more elementary heading of Two Words Where One Will Do, and here’s a collection of easily disposed of redundancies. Some of these may strike you as obvious — though their obviousness doesn’t stop them from showing up constantly. Others are a little more arcane — the sorts of things you could likely get away with without anyone’s noticing — but they’re snippable nonetheless.

In either case, for those moments when you’re contemplating that either you or your prose could stand to go on a diet and your prose seems the easier target, here’s a good place to start.

(The bits in italics are the bits you can dispose of.)


  • ABM missile
    ABM = anti-ballistic missile.
  • absolutely certain, absolute certainty, absolutely essential
  • added bonus
  • advance planning, advance warning
  • all-time record
    As well, one doesn’t set a “new record.” One merely sets a record.
  • assless chaps
    The garment, that is. Not fellows lacking in dorsal embonpoint. I’m not sure how often this will come up in your writing — or in your life — but chaps are, by definition, assless. Look at a cowboy. From behind.
  • ATM machine
    ATM = automated teller machine, which, one might argue and win the argument, is redundant enough as it is.
  • blend together
  • cameo appearance, cameo role
  • capitol building
  • closed fist
     A closed hand is, I suppose, a thing. But as there are no open fists, neither are there closed ones.
  • close proximity
    Like “from whence” (see below), “close proximity” can be defended simply by its lengthy history of turning up in competent prose, but to be proximate is, inarguably, to be close, so if you need to emphasize intimacy, perhaps find a less galumphing way to do it.
  • CNN network
    CNN = Cable News Network.
  • consensus of opinion, general consensus
    The word “consensus” has the “general” and the “of opinion” baked right in. It doesn’t need any help.
  • continue on
    The airlines like it. I don’t.
  • crisis situation
  • depreciated in value
  • direct confrontation
  • disappear from sight
  • earlier in time
  • end product
  • end result
     I can appreciate the difference between a midprogress result and an ultimate result, but “end result” is cloddish.
  • equally as, equally as
    Use one or the other, not both. Alan Jay Lerner’s “I’d be equally as willing for a dentist to be drilling / than to ever let a woman in my life,” from My Fair Lady, is often pointed out by aficionados as one of the prime grammatical calamities in musical theater lyric writing — not only the “equally as” but that “than” that should certainly be an “as.” That the singer of the lyric is the persnickety grammarian Henry Higgins only adds to the ironic fun.
  • erupt (or explode) violently
  • exact same
    To be sure, “exact same” is redundant. To be sure, I still say it and write it.
  • fall down
    What are you going to do, fall up?
  • fellow countryman
  • fetch back
    To fetch something is not merely to go get it but to go get it and return with it to the starting place. Ask a dog.
  • few in number
  • fiction novel
    Appalling. A novel is a work of fiction. That’s why it’s called a novel. That said, “nonfiction novel” is not the oxymoron it might at first seem. The term refers to the genre pioneered — though not, as is occasionally averred, invented — by Truman Capote with In Cold Blood, that of the work of nonfiction written novelistically. Lately one encounters people referring to any full-length book, even a work of nonfiction, as a novel. That has to stop.
  • final outcome
  • follow after
  • free gift
    A classic of the redundancy genre, much beloved of retailers and advertisers.
  • from whence
    Whence means “from where,” which makes “from whence” pretty damn redundant. Still, the phrase has a lot of history, including, from the King James Version of the Bible, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” So I suppose you can write “from whence” if you’re also talking about thine eyes and the place your help is comething from. 
     For a dazzling (and purposeful) use of “from whence,” consider Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls lyric “Take back your mink / to from whence it came” — gorgeously appropriate for the tawdry nightclub number in which it’s sung.
  • frontispiece illustration
    A frontispiece is an illustration immediately preceding, and generally facing, a book’s title page.
  • full gamut
    A gamut is the full range or scope of something, so the word needs no modifier. Ditto “complete range,” “broad spectrum,” “full extent,” and their cousins.
  • fuse together
  • future plans
  • gather together
    Yes, I know: “We Gather Together (to Ask the Lord’s Blessing),” and “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18:20). Two wrongs, even sacred ones, do not make a divine right.
  • glance briefly
    Indeed, that’s what your garden-variety glance is: brief.
  • HIV virus
    HIV = human immunodeficiency virus.
  • hollow tube
    Bet you hadn’t thought of that one, had you.
  • hourly (or daily or weekly or monthly or yearly) basis
  • integrate with each other
  • interdependent upon each other
  • join together
  • kneel down
  • knots per hour
    One knot = one nautical mile per hour.
  • last of all
  • lesbian woman
    Come on, folks. Think.
  • lift up
  • low ebb
    One may properly (if perhaps dully) refer to one’s lowest emotional ebb, but an ebb is low by definition.
  • main protagonist
    I don’t hold with the notion that a story can have no more than one protagonist, but “main protagonist” grates.
  • merge together
  • might possibly
  • moment in time
    Whitney Houston notwithstanding.
  • more superior
  • Mount Fujiyama
    As we note that yama means “mountain,” we also note that we can refer to Fujiyama or to Mount Fuji.
  • mutual cooperation
  • ___ o’clock a.m. in the morning
    Just plain unacceptable. Ditto “p.m. in the evening.”
    While we’re here, let’s dispatch “twelve midnight” and “twelve noon”; “midnight” and “noon” are all you need to say.
  • orbit around
  • overexaggerate
    Even spellcheck sneers at it.
  • paparazzi photographers
    There is, by the way, a singular of paparazzi: It’s paparazzo.
  • passing fad
    A fad is, by definition, of brief duration. A fancy may not be (though it’s certainly superficial and usually capricious). So Ira Gershwin (“The radio and the telephone / and the movies that we know / may just be passing fancies and in time may go”) and Cole Porter (“And it’s not a passing fancy or a fancy pass”) are in the clear.
  • past history
  • personal friend, personal opinion
    “Personal,” more often than not, begs to be deleted whenever or wherever it shows up. And the only thing worse than “my personal opinion” is “my own personal opinion.”
  • PIN number
    PIN = personal identification number.
  • plan ahead
  • preplan
    Horrid.
  • raise up
  • reason why
    I include this here largely to disinclude it. You can usually do without the “why,” but there’s no particular reason you ought. I once got called out on “reason why” at a cocktail party — no, seriously, at an actual cocktail party — so I’ve since doubled down and use it all the time. Not “the reason is because,” though. That’s a bit much.
  • regular routine
  • return (or recall or revert or many other things beginning with “re-”) back
  • rise up
    If you think I’m going to pick a fight with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who uses the phrase “rise up” repeatedly in Hamilton’s “My Shot,” you have another thing coming. And yet…
  • short in length
  • shuttle back and forth
  • sink down
  • skirt around
  • slightly ajar
  • sudden impulse
  • surrounded on all sides
  • swoop down
    To be highly, nitpickingly technical about it, swooping is a downward action, so “swoop down” is one more word than one needs. But everyone says it, so let’s give it a pass. We’re also very used to “swoop up,” as in swooping up (or scooping up) a dropped ball or child.
  • sworn affidavit
  • undergraduate student
    “Undergraduate” is an excellent noun. No need to use it as an adjective to modify itself.
  • unexpected surprise
    Dreadful. And common, in both senses of the word.
  • unsolved mystery
    Once it’s solved, it’s not a mystery anymore, is it.
  • unthaw
    Come, now.
  • usual custom
  • wall mural
    No, really, I’ve seen this.
  • wall sconce
    Same.

Copyediting FAQ

Q. What’s the most redundant redundancy you’ve ever encountered?

A. I recall it as if it were yesterday:

“He implied without quite saying.”

I was so filled with delight on encountering that, I scarcely had the heart to cross out “without quite saying” and to note in the margin, politely and succinctly, “by def.”

But I did it anyway.


From DREYER’S ENGLISH by Benjamin Dreyer. Copyright © 2019 by Benjamin Dreyer. Reprinted by permission of Random House.